Wednesday, 29 May 2019
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
The issue I wish to raise with the Minister relates to policing and the Garda resources deployed in Rathcoole, County Dublin. I thank the Ceann Comhairle's office for allowing this debate. I specifically thank the Minister for his attendance to take this matter. This is not an area I raise often but there is a particular issue and it is important that it is addressed specifically.
In a response to a similar question a year ago, the Minister stated:
The Government is committed to ensuring strong and visible police presence throughout the country in order to maintain and strengthen community engagement, provide reassurance to citizens and to deter crime. To achieve this the Government has put in place a plan for an overall Garda workforce of 21,000 personnel by 2021 comprising 15,000 Garda members, 2,000 Reserve members and 4,000 civilians. We are making real, tangible progress in achieving this goal.
The Minister highlighted in the Dáil this morning the fact that there are now more than 14,000 gardaí. In all the stations in my constituency I am seeing the benefit of that but I am not seeing it in Rathcoole Garda station. I want to put some figures on the record. Often when I get replies they contain global figures referring to the Dublin metropolitan region, DMR and so forth. I want to compare two stations that are side by side. At the end of December 2012, there were 26 gardaí in Rathcoole and 95 in Clondalkin. Admittedly the Garda College in Templemore was closed and the number of gardaí fell, and that is reflected in what happened in the coming years. At the end of 2013 the number of gardaí in Rathcoole dropped to 23 and to 91 in Clondalkin. At the end of 2014, the number of gardaí in Rathcoole stood at 23 and there was a further drop in the number in Clondalkin to 89. At the end of 2015, the number in Rathcoole stood at 21 and the number in Clondalkin was 87.
At the end of 2015, there was a change, and we see the Garda numbers in Clondalkin increase. At the end of 2016, Garda numbers in Clondalkin increased to 94 but those in Rathcoole continued to decline to 19. At the end of 2017, Garda numbers in Clondalkin further increased to 97 and Rathcoole further declined to 14. This year, on the last date that I checked, there were 105 gardaí in Clondalkin and 14 in Rathcoole. As we are seeing Garda numbers increase, we are not seeing them going back to Rathcoole Garda station. At the end of 2012, we had twice as many gardaí in Rathcoole as we have today. The area has grown significantly in population. It is not a village. Policed from Rathcoole are Rathcoole, Newcastle, Saggart and Citywest. The area has increased in terms of population, retail and industry. In the rural parts of the constituency, around Redgap, etc., people feel insecure in their own homes.
There is a Garda station in Rathcoole and it is manned part time. The number of hours it is open, whether 10 a.m. to 12 noon or 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., is subject to a garda being available. It does not always open on those hours. With 13 or 14 gardaí in Rathcoole, there are units of two or three. If somebody is on holidays or sick, these are not efficient and effective units. There are simply not enough gardaí based in the Rathcoole area to deliver the type of policing service that the Minister stated he wanted, that is, "to ensure a strong and visible police presence throughout the country ...". That is not happening in Rathcoole.
At a time of restoration of numbers - I gave the Minister the Clondalkin numbers in parallel - it is the same in Lucan and in Ronanstown but Rathcoole has been in constant decline since 2012. The population, economic activity, retail and industry have grown but we are seeing a decline in numbers. The service is insufficient and unsatisfactory for the population that currently resides there.
I thank Deputy Curran for raising this issue.
Firstly, I reiterate for the House that the deployment of Garda resources is solely the responsibility of the Garda Commissioner and his management team. The distribution of Garda resources is constantly monitored taking into account all relevant and appropriate factors, including population and new and emerging crime trends.
Working with communities to tackle public disorder and reduce anti-social behaviour remains a key priority for the Garda Síochána. The Garda Commissioner has publicly spoken about issues such as protecting our most vulnerable and he has highlighted that his priority is a policing model that will provide the best outcomes for communities. This approach includes a strong focus on quality of life issues and collaboration with local authorities to help address the causes of anti-social behaviour.
With the accelerated recruitment of Garda members continuing this year, it provides the Commissioner with the ability to increase Garda numbers and visibility in all Garda divisions, including the DMR west division. Rathcoole Garda station forms part of the Clondalkin district in the Dublin metropolitan region, DMR, West Division. The Garda strength of the DMR west division, as of 30 April last, the latest date for which figures are readily available, was 715, of whom 200 are assigned to the Clondalkin district and 14 are assigned to Rathcoole Garda station. There are also 23 Garda Reserves and 63 Garda civilian staff attached to the DMR west division. It is envisaged that the DMR west Garda division will receive further allocations of probationer gardaí from the Garda College this year.
There is also provision for uniform and plain-clothes patrols within the district to support Garda operations, and support provided by divisional units, such as the divisional and district drugs units, roads policing personnel and community engagement personnel. Where appropriate, local gardaí are supported by a number of Garda national units, such as the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the armed support units, the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and the Garda National Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau, which also have had an increase in resources this year.
Additional recruitment of Garda staff will allow the Commissioner to redeploy a further 500 fully-trained gardaí from administrative duties to front-line policing over the course of this year. The injection of this large number of experienced officers into the field, along with the new recruits, will provide the Commissioner with the resources needed to deploy increasing numbers of gardaí to deliver, as Deputy Curran said, a visible effective and responsive policing service to communities in all divisions, including the DMR west division.
The Government has increased the budget for An Garda Síochána to €1.76 billion for 2019 in addition to a very significant capital investment, which includes €342 million for Garda ICT infrastructure between 2016 and 2021 to enable An Garda Síochána to deploy the latest cutting-edge technologies and €46 million for the Garda fleet. As of 30 April, there were 75 Garda vehicles assigned to the DMR west division.
While An Garda Síochána will continue to tackle anti-social problems head-on, it cannot eradicate the problem of anti-social behaviour alone. Specifically in relation to young offenders, it is also up to us as adults, particularly the parents and guardians, to ensure that children are raised to be respectful and law-abiding.
I thank the Minister for his reply. A number of weeks ago, Councillor Trevor Gilligan and myself attended a public meeting on this issue regarding resources in the greater Rathcoole area. It was very well attended. People spoke of their own particular incidents and the response from An Garda Síochána. It is not only the case that they want a Garda presence. There is a physical record of an increase in crime, as reported at the joint policing committees, JPCs. Burglary, for the first four months, in comparison to the previous ones, was up almost 50%. Criminal damage was up 47%. Theft from motor vehicles was up 67%. Public order incidents were up 57%.
The Minister stated in his reply that there would be a further deployment. I acknowledge fully that it is not up to the Minister to allocate the resources from Garda station to Garda station but, as a public representative for the area, an area whose population believes it is being ignored and is missing out, I see no evidence to suggest that any of the additional deployment that has occurred to date has materialised in the Rathcoole area. Therein lies the problem. DMR west may well be increasing, but the number of gardaí, at 14, is the lowest since last year, at 13. At 13 and 14, respectively, it is the lowest ever recorded. In every other station, we are seeing the increase in resources the Minister talked about. People in Rathcoole deserve the level of service the Minister talked about in terms of a physical presence. It is not happening.
I need the Minister to bring this point directly to the Commissioner and to say to him that the Government is making additional resources available, DMR west is benefitting from it, but the area around Rathcoole, Newcastle and Saggart has a minuscule number of gardaí, an ineffective and inefficient number to police the greater area that it is supposed to cover. I appeal to the Minister to make that plea to the Garda Commissioner. I acknowledge that the numbers are being deployed in DMR west. I am specifically saying we need to increase them in Rathcoole.
There are 715 gardaí in DMR west, of whom 200 are in the Clondalkin district. I assure Deputy Curran that the distribution of Garda resources in terms of personnel is monitored constantly. It takes into account all the appropriate and relevant factors, for example, crime trends in the area and the valid point, as raised by Deputy Curran, of the population distribution across the district. I accept what Deputy Curran said in terms of that growing urban area to the south west of Dublin.
It is important that these issues remain closely monitored by the Garda Síochána but I said that Garda numbers alone will not deal with the issues raised. While working with communities to tackle public disorder and reduce anti-social behaviour remains a key priority for the Garda, we need to ensure there is a strong focus on quality of life issues.
We also need to ensure that there is a strong focus on collaboration with stakeholders in local communities, that local authorities are involved and that everybody is working together to help and assist to the gardaí to eradicate anti-social behaviour. It means drilling down to the root causes of anti-social behaviour. I, of course, accept that Garda numbers is an issue and I will be happy to convey to the Garda authorities the specific point raised by Deputy Curran about an individual Garda station, namely, Rathcoole.